WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNNMoney.com) -- President Obama has got a new budget director, four months after he asked for one.
The Senate confirmed Jacob Lew as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget late Thursday.
Obama tapped Lew in July, shortly after the president pledged to cut the nation's budget deficit in half by 2013 at a meeting of world leaders in Toronto.
His confirmation had been held up -- as Senate rules allow -- by Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana who objected to Obama's policies on offshore drilling.
The confirmation comes at a critical time. The nation's long-term debt, widely considered to be unsustainable, is front and center in Washington. And as a practical matter, Lew will be in charge of drawing up the administration's fiscal 2012 budget proposal, which is due to Congress early next year.
Lew told lawmakers in September that his "first task" will be to push for polices that spur the economic recovery.
"At the same time," Lew said, "we must put our nation back on a sustainable fiscal course in the medium term while making investments critical to long-term economic growth."
Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat who heads the Senate Budget Committee, noted that Lew has only a short time to finish the president's 2012 budget while also dealing with the president's debt commission, which is set to make recommendations on Dec. 1.
"The challenges confronting Jack are immense," Conrad said. "We face trillion dollar short-term deficits, an economy still struggling to get back on its feet, and a dire long-term budget outlook."
Lew succeeds Peter Orszag, who headed President Obama's budget team until his departure in July.
Lew held the same position in the administration of President Clinton from 1998 to 2001. Most recently, he was deputy secretary of state for management and resources in the Obama administration.
Obama on Thursday cited wide bipartisan support for the nominee.
"[Lew] brings unparalleled experience and wisdom to this important job at a critical time in our nation's history," the president said in a statement.
"After years of irresponsibility in Washington, we need to make the tough choices to put our country back on a sustainable fiscal path and lay the foundation for long-term job creation and economic growth. We need to cut waste where we find it and create a government that is efficient, effective, and responsive to the American people."
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